Last night I rolled over in the dark, held my breath and tilted my head toward the window. Was that a cat on my roof? When I exhaled, there it was again: the high-pitched whine of a clogged nostril. An hour later I woke up cowering from a World War II air-raid dream. Buds are swelling on the honeysuckles. I need my coat in the morning, but I forget it at the office every afternoon. I’ve oiled the garden tools and doubled up the squat thrusts. Soon, it will be time to shave my legs for Spring. I refuse to catch a cold. Instead of running for covers, I open my medicine cabinet–nice and slow.
My secret weapon? A $3 dose of lipospheric Vitamin C that tastes so bad that I stomp one foot as I bite off the corner of the packet and guzzle the half-gelled contents by inserting the whole pouch and pulling it out out between my teeth. Instead of following instructions that prolong the unpleasantness, I deliver it, grenade style, in one swallow. Take THAT, rhinovirus! I’ve been eluding the creeping crud since Halloween, dodging contaminated airborne particles like automatic weapons fire. I empty trash cans with tongs and cut away from crowded aisles at the grocery store. Snotty children make me shiver. I gather my books and move my seat at the library at the the second sign of a cough.
In January, my husband got so sick that he jammed a tissue up each swollen nostril and skulked around the house imitating the Abominable Kleenex Man. I kicked him out of our bedroom for nine days. Unlike my husband, who at least had the decency to hole up, many of the Walking Infected participate in a weird ritual of martyrdom and tribal recruitment. “I’ve been sick for three days,” one of them tells me. “I dragged myself out of bed to make this appointment.”
“Gee, thanks,” I say, disguising my recoil as a stretch. Despite repeated confined exposure, no way am I buying NyQuil. Putting that stuff in your bathroom is like hanging a sign around your neck: “Come and get me.” I will launch pre-emptive attacks with echinacea, garlic, zinc and Vitamin C. I will buy a homeopathic remedy with five syllables of O’s and C’s, but I will not not buy the dreaded green fluid until the pharmacist takes two steps backwards when I ask, “Where’s duh Die-kwul? And if there are extras from a Zombie movie in that aisle at Walgreens, I’m gonna wait it out.